An analysis of Andorra’s Digital Assets Act and the potential confusion surrounding Bitcoin, blockchain and crypto according to crypto business owners.
By: Joseph Hall
A small light of progress shines from Andorra, a tiny European country nestled between France and Spain. The country’s government, the General Council of Andorra, recently approved the Digital Assets Act, a regulatory framework for digital currencies and blockchain technology.
The act is split into two parts. The first regards the creation of digital money, or “programmable digital sovereign money,” which can be exchanged in a closed system. In effect, this would allow the Andorran state to create its own token.
The second half of the act refers to digital assets as financial instruments and intends to create an environment in which blockchain and distributed ledger technologies can be regulated. For Paul (who withheld his surname), CEO of local Bitcoin business 21Million, the new law could attract new business. He told Cointelegraph:
“The outcome they’re trying to achieve is to actually attract new businesses to locate in the country by offering some legal clarification making it easier and more transparent. They see this as a way to attract talents and entrepreneurs to the new economy.”
Note that cryptocurrencies and digital currencies are not legal tender in Andorra, and the Digital Assets Act makes no proposals surrounding means of exchange. That privilege is exclusively reserved for the preferred currency of the European Central Bank, the euro. It hasn’t stopped Paul, an avid Bitcoiner, from making the case for Bitcoin (BTC) adoption in Andorra:
In a blog post, Paul highlighted that Andorra could adopt a Bitcoin standard, mining Bitcoin with renewable energy, taking on Bitcoin as a reserve asset, and welcoming Bitcoin-centric companies from all around the world.
National newspaper Diari d’Andorra reported that the Digital Assets Act is a step toward “making cryptocurrencies a day-to-day reality.” From a business perspective, Paul said that the level of “crypto-friendliness” depends on the activity.
“I have a friend who runs a mining operation here — no problem —and electricity is cheap. If you do financial consulting, then the same: pretty friendly with a low tax rate. If you wanted to run an exchange, it could be a bit hard to find a bank that works with you; the government itself wouldn’t mind.”
In an interview in May, Andorran Minister of Economy and Enterprise Jordi Gallardo mentioned that blockchain was one of the top areas of investment for the tiny country. However, it is not clear if the minister referred to Bitcoin (the world’s foremost blockchain) or research into distributed ledger technologies that underpin blockchains.
Josselin Tonnellier, co-founder of StackinSat, told Cointelegraph that there is confusion regarding crypto, blockchain, nonfungible tokens and Bitcoin. StackinSat hosts a major European Bitcoin conference, Surfin’ Bitcoin, in Biarritz, France just outside Andorra where the group’s headquarters are also located.
Paul, who is a regular attendee of Surfin’ Bitcoin, confirms that in Andorra, the sentiment and confusion remain similar: “The regulator doesn’t make a differentiation between ‘crypto’ and Bitcoin. They haven’t been ‘orange-pilled’ yet.” To take the orange pill is Bitcoin parlance for when a novice to Bitcoin begins to understand the principles of the seminal cryptocurrency.
Tonnellier emphasized that awareness of digital currencies and technologies is on the rise, but there’s a risk of scams and losses without the right educational tools or frameworks in place:
“According to a recent report by KPMG, there are more French people exposed to ‘crypto’ than to the stock market […] France is known to be a hotbed of ‘shitcoinery.’”
Although there is no “shitcoin” classification chart, such coins are tokens other than Bitcoin, which, according to the latter’s proponents, are at risk of plummeting to zero. Squid Game Token was one of the most newsworthy shitcoins of 2021.
Back in Andorra, Tonnellier explained that the country is best placed to run with technologies such as Bitcoin. “Andorra is one of the few European countries outside the jurisdiction of the European Parliament.” Indeed, in many ways, it could be comparable to Switzerland on a smaller scale:
“Andorra is very attractive for entrepreneurs thanks to its low tax, but Switzerland has a great head start in promoting the development of activities around Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general. This could change in the coming years thanks to this text of laws which frames Bitcoin and blockchain activities.”
At under 500 square kilometers of land, Andorra is among Europe’s smallest countries. Contrary to popular belief, Andorra is not a tax haven; the micro-state renounced banking secrecy in 2018. Nonetheless, taxes are considerably lower than in neighboring France or Spain, while financial services comprise up to 20% of the economy.
While it’s unclear which digital assets the government intends to regulate with the Digital Assets Act, the economically motivated movement may help to diversify the Andorran economy and welcome blockchain- and crypto-based companies. For Paul, it’s a step closer to Andorra adopting Bitcoin.
The Central African Republic has adopted Bitcoin as a legal currency, becoming only the second country to do so after El Salvador.
Lawmakers from the central African country unanimously adopted a bill to make Bitcoin legal tender alongside its CFA franc and legalised the use of cryptocurrencies.
President Faustin Archange Touadera signed the measure into law, his chief of staff Obed Namsio said in a statement.
The CAR “is the first country in Africa to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender,” Namsio said.
“This move places the Central African Republic on the map of the world’s boldest and most visionary countries,” he added.
The new legislation covers the use of cryptocurrencies and those who use them, in online trade, “smart contracts… by blockchain technology” and “all electronic transactions”.
It also said cryptocurrency exchanges are not liable to tax.
However, due to the high volatility of the digital currency, some are wary of the move.
Martin Ziguele, a former CAR prime minister who is now an opposition MP, complained the bill was approved “by proclamation” while some legislators intend to file suit against it at the Constitutional Court. “This law is a way of getting out of the CFA franc through a means that guts the common currency,” said Ziguele. “It [the law] isn’t a priority for the country,” he said. “This move raises the question: who benefits from it?”
Regulators around the world share the same concerns. Some also say that transfers using crypto are a perfect tool for traffickers and money laundering as they can be anonymised.
While countries such as India have in the past banned crypto transactions, El Salvador became the first country to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender last September.
But the move by El Salvador was heavily criticised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The IMF warns El Salvador to drop Bitcoin as a legal currency “The adoption of a cryptocurrency as legal tender, however, entails large risks for financial and market integrity, financial stability and consumer protection,” it warned.
The CAR is one of the world’s poorest countries and has been in the grips of a nine-year civil war that developed largely along sectarian lines.
In 2020, a coalition of rebels advanced on the capital Bangui, threatening to overturn Touadera as new elections loomed.
Russia dispatched paramilitaries to help repel the threat and then recover much of the rebel-held territory.
The operatives are described by Bangui as military advisers but by France, the UN, and others as mercenaries from the Kremlin-backed Wagner group, which has been accused of abuses.
Title: The Lebanese Bitcoin Legal Tender Act
Whereas, the global financial landscape is evolving rapidly with the emergence of Bitcoin;
Whereas, recognizing the need to foster innovation, financial inclusion, and economic growth in Lebanon;
Whereas, understanding the potential benefits of adopting Bitcoin as a legal tender;
Now, therefore, be it enacted by the Lebanese Parliament as follows:
Section 1: Definitions
(a) "Bitcoin" refers to a decentralized digital asset that utilizes cryptography for security and operates on a blockchain or distributed ledger.
(b) "Legal tender" refers to the official medium of payment recognized by the government for settling financial transactions within the country.
Section 2: Recognition of Bitcoin as Legal Tender
(a) Bitcoin shall be recognized as legal tender in Lebanon for all transactions conducted within the country.
(b) Individuals, businesses, and government entities shall have the right to use Bitcoin for the purchase of goods and services, payment of taxes, and settlement of debts.
Section 3: Regulatory Oversight
(a) The Central Bank of Lebanon shall establish and maintain a regulatory framework for the use of Bitcoin as legal tender.
(b) Regulatory guidelines shall address issues such as consumer protection, data security, and anonymity.
(c) The Central Bank shall collaborate with relevant government agencies and stakeholders to monitor and regulate the use of Bitcoin, ensuring the integrity and stability of the financial system.
Section 4: Taxation
(a) Transactions conducted using Bitcoin shall be subject to taxation in accordance with existing tax laws.
(b) The government shall develop clear guidelines for the calculation and reporting of taxes related to Bitcoin transactions.
Section 5: Consumer Protection
(a) Consumers using Bitcoin for transactions shall have the same rights and protections as those using traditional forms of payment.
(b) Any fraudulent activities involving Bitcoin shall be subject to appropriate legal action and penalties.
Section 6: Public Awareness and Education
(a) The government shall initiate public awareness campaigns to educate citizens about the benefits, risks, and responsible use of Bitcoin.
(b) Educational programs shall be implemented to enhance the understanding of Bitcoin among businesses, financial institutions, and the general public.
Section 7: Implementation and Transition
(a) This Act shall come into effect [insert effective date].
(b) The Central Bank of Lebanon shall establish a transition period to facilitate the integration of Bitcoin as legal tender into the existing financial system.
(c) During the transition period, the government shall collaborate with financial institutions and businesses to ensure a smooth and secure transition to the use of Bitcoin.
(d) The Central Bank of Lebanon may issue regulations and guidelines to facilitate the implementation of this Act.
Section 8: Repeal of Inconsistent Laws
Any laws or regulations inconsistent with the provisions of this Act are hereby repealed.
Section 9: Severability
If any provision of this Act or its application to any person or circumstances is held invalid, the remainder of the Act or the application of the provisions to other persons or circumstances shall not be affected.
Section 10: Enactment
This Act is enacted into law by the Lebanese Parliament on [insert date].
BITCOIN BLOCKCHAIN Beirut Labs.
العنوان: قانون لبناني يتيح البيتكوين كوسيلة قانونية للدفع
حيث أن المشهد المالي العالمي يتطور بسرعة مع ظهور البيتكوين؛
حيث أنه من الضروري الاعتراف بالحاجة إلى تعزيز الابتكار والشمول المالي والنمو الاقتصادي في لبنان؛
حيث أنه من المهم فهم الفوائد المحتملة لاعتماد البيتكوين كوسيلة قانونية؛
لذلك، يتم إصداره بموجب البرلمان اللبناني كما يلي:
القسم 1: التعاريف
(أ) "البيتكوين" يشير إلى أصل رقمي لا مركزي يستخدم التشفير للأمان ويعمل على سلسلة كتل أو دفتر موزع.
(ب) "وسيلة قانونية" تشير إلى الوسيلة الرسمية للدفع التي يعترف بها الحكومة لتسوية المعاملات المالية داخل البلاد.
القسم 2: الاعتراف بالبيتكوين كوسيلة قانونية
(أ) يتم الاعتراف بالبيتكوين كوسيلة قانونية في لبنان لجميع المعاملات التي تجرى داخل البلاد.
(ب) يحق للأفراد والشركات والجهات الحكومية استخدام البيتكوين لشراء السلع والخدمات ودفع الضرائب وتسوية الديون.
القسم 3: الإشراف التنظيمي
(أ) يجب على مصرف لبنان المركزي إقامة والحفاظ على إطار تنظيمي لاستخدام البيتكوين كوسيلة قانونية.
(ب) التوجيهات التنظيمية يجب أن تتناول قضايا مثل حماية المستهلك، أمان البيانات، والتجهيز.
(ج) يجب على مصرف لبنان المركزي التعاون مع الجهات الحكومية ذات الصلة والمعنيين لمراقبة وتنظيم استخدام البيتكوين، مع ضمان نزاهة واستقرار النظام المالي.
القسم 4: الضرائب
(أ) يخضع الصفقات التي تتم باستخدام البيتكوين للضريبة وفقًا لقوانين الضرائب الحالية.
(ب) يجب على الحكومة وضع إرشادات واضحة لحساب وتقديم التقارير حول الضرائب المتعلقة بصفقات البيتكوين.
القسم 5: حماية المستهلك
(أ) يحق للمستهلكين استخدام البيتكوين للمعاملات بنفس الحقوق والحماية الممنوحة لأولئك الذين يستخدمون أشكال الدفع التقليدية.
(ب) يخضع أي أنشطة احتيالية تتضمن البيتكوين للإجراءات القانونية والعقوبات المناسبة.
القسم 6: التوعية العامة والتثقيف
(أ) يجب على الحكومة إطلاق حملات توعية عامة لتثقيف المواطنين حول فوائد ومخاطر واستخدام البيتكوين بشكل مسؤول.
(ب) يجب تنفيذ برامج تثقيفية لتعزيز فهم الشركات والمؤسسات المالية والجمهور العام للبيتكوين.
القسم 7: التنفيذ والانتقال
(أ) يبدأ سريان هذا القانون في [أدخل تاريخ النفاذ].
(ب) يجب على مصرف لبنان المركزي إقامة فترة انتقالية لتسهيل دمج البيتكوين كوسيلة قانونية في النظام المالي الحالي.
(ج) خلال فترة الانتقال، يجب على الحكومة التعاون مع المؤسسات المالية والشركات لضمان انتقال سلس وآمن إلى استخدام البيتكوين
بيتكوين بلوكشين مختبرات بيروت
El Salvador has been a country suffering from civil war, economic ruin and high organized crime & murder rates for much of its modern life. Yet the 39 yr old El Salvadorian President, Nayib Bukele, who enjoys a super-majority of his party in parliament, in a world’s first, enacted law making Bitcoin legal tender in his nation.
Since 2001 El Salvador has done away with its local currency, the Colon, and instead decided to use The US Dollar as legal tender. With Bitcoin also now as legal tender, El Salvador made the best choice for securing the nation’s wealth going forward during these uncertain geopolitical times.
Stating the ease of payments and remittances which much of the country depends on, as well as the fact that many El Salvadorians aren’t banked, Bukele sees Bitcoin as the ideal solution.
It doesn’t stop with making Bitcoin legal tender. Bukele asked the state owned geothermal energy firm, LaGeo, to devise plans for offering Bitcoin mining facilities to Bitcoin miners who want to use the nation’s geothermal energy resources to run their mining farms. According to journalist Max Keiser, to be able to attract these miners, El Salvador is also offering permanent residence for Bitcoiners who are willing to dedicate BTC 3.
This, first-time, comprehensive all-round adoption of Bitcoin by a whole nation is the light Bitcoiners have been waiting to see in a long time, and just as the first domino falls, we also envision many other nations eventually following in El Salvador’s path.